Other Important Residents’ Rights

The four rights discussed here are rights to a smoke-free environment; safety; security; and right to social activities.

Right to a Smoke-Free Environment

The Ontario Human Rights Code takes precedence. Recently, a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled that condo corporations have the duty to do act when a resident is affected by second-hand smoke. For instance, when smoke from another resident filters into the corridors and/or into another resident's suite and that resident is sensitive to smoke, the board has to step in. Repairs to the common elements may be necessary or requesting that the smoker take precautions against the smoke leaving his or her unit may also be necessary.

However, it is likely that recourse to the Tribunal is legitimate and will bear results mainly if the victims of the second-hand smoke are allergic to smoke and/or have other health problems or disabilities that make the smoke particularly bad for their health. Medical evidence may be requested.

It is yet unknown at this point to what extent a condo corporation is responsible for smoke that filters and simply inconveniences neighbours. However, there is plenty of research evidence to the effect that second-hand smoke is detrimental to health in general, particularly for small children, and this may be sufficient. Contacting the Ontario Human Rights Commission would be imperative.

Right to Safety

Boards of directors, through managers and superintendents, have to eliminate anything that people can bump into (such as overhangs at head level) or that can make them trip or slip and fall.

This is one of the reasons why storage of items behind and next to cars in garages is generally prohibited. Similarly, floors have to be examined so that they do not have slippery surfaces or objects such as food stuff (the famous banana peel, comes to mind here). Stairwells have to be carefully scrutinized on a daily basis. In cold weather, walkways have to be treated with sand or calcium (salt is generally cheaper, unfortunately). Loose stones have to be attended to.

Fire alarm testing has to occur on a quarterly basis in addition to the larger annual one. At that point, smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors are inspected. Fire alarms have to be clearly heard in all suites and common elements.

Smoke Alarms

Residents are at times irritated at the alarm and disconnect speakers and smoke detectors. Some even cut the electrical wires. This contravenes fire code regulations. But a fire inspection will reveal these problems and the resident will have to pay for their immediate reinstallation. Such actions are not only illegal but may place many lives in danger.

Elevators have to be periodically inspected and recertified. Finally, there is a standard of minimum lighting that is required in all corridors, stairwells, and parking areas.

Right to Security

The basic right to security first rests on the fact that no one should be able to enter a unit without the resident's consent or without prior notification from management for necessary repairs or services.

Several owners have written about thieves entering their unit while away or at work (something which is generally an inside job); of finding a security person or other personnel in their unit with no rationale for being there; of waking up in the middle of the night to find the security person in their unit; of owners who return from abroad to find that someone has been using their unit during their absence--and someone else is getting a "rent"!

On another level, it is difficult to know to what extent security cameras that are linked to monitors at the concierge desk are effective deterrents. At the very least, their visibility makes life more complicated for someone who is intent on committing a crime.

However, in the event that the concierge happens to be looking at the monitors, he or she could prevent or stop an assault on a person. This is why such personnel should be trained to glance at the monitors regularly.

But the best way to keep residents secure and safe from outside intrusion is to prevent non-residents from walking in.

Keys that can be readily duplicated for common doors create a security problem: Residents can make copies and pass them to friends. Card readers are far better because a manager can keep a record of the number of fobs given to each resident and cancel them upon their moving out or their losing a fob. 

Security System in Units

High-rise condos are generally equipped with a security system for access to suites. This is a small control panel inside a suite, right next to the entry door. Push buttons allow residents to secure their suite when they leave and return. However a personal code is required to “disarm” it. Most of the time, a resident who moves out does not give the code to the new resident. As a result, the system is under-utilized.


Security System

This system is designed to alert the security desk if someone breaks in. This can’t happen when the system is not “armed” by the resident. The worst part is that residents who don’t know how to change the code when they move in become frustrated when they inadvertently trigger the alarm in their suite and cannot stop it. Some then end up cutting the wires.

As a result, in some buildings, the entire system may fail and none of the suites are protected: The concierge can no longer hear the alarm system if someone breaks into a suite or, yet, he hears it all the time and cannot know when a real problem arises.

This is a serious issue of liability and a condo corporation could be sued if someone gained entry into a suite and hurt the occupants or stole personal possessions. When a resident “arms” her suite’s security system, the expectation is that the system is connected to the security desk and the staff will react if an intruder forces his way in and the alarm rings within the suite and at the desk.

When an inspection reveals that some suites have disabled their system and, as a result, the building’s entire system is equally disabled, then those owners should be asked to have their system repaired immediately. Otherwise, the condo should do it for them and the charge would be added to their common elements fees if they do not reimburse the condo shortly thereafter.

Most residents are not aware of this problem. In fact, most boards of directors do not understand their obligations in this respect.

Right to Social Activities and Parties?

This isn't a right: There is nothing in the Ontario Condo Act about owners and residents of condos having a right to be entertained by the condo.

In fact, the Condo Act does not allow condo funds to be used for parties for residents—even though no one generally objects.

One line of thinking, agreed upon by some legal experts but disputed by others, is that a condo party is an investment in community building and is a boost to morale. True. In fact, a large proportion of condos openly include a “social activities” category in their budget.

This said, a condo should not spend too much on parties and not too often either because owners who do not wish to attend (and indirectly pay via fees) may not agree with this perspective.  At any rate, condo boards should be aware of the potentially objectionable aspect of giving parties at corporation expense.

A good idea might be to ask residents to contribute a toonie when they register for a party.

Many condos have Social Activities Committees. Boards have to carefully scrutinize these activities for potential liabilities if they involve the use of common elements such as the party room. Boards should probably not give condo money to committees.

As well, if a director or the management is involved in planning these activities, including outings to casinos or racetracks or plays, the board should establish that the bus company has a good record and is properly insured.

Condo parties, whether organized by boards or committees, lead to the issue of alcoholic beverages.

Hosts can be liable when a guest drinks too much and is involved in an accident after attending their party or going to their bar.

A safer alternative for condo parties may be to give two tokens to each adult resident who attends and who wishes to drink alcoholic beverages. This limits the number of drinks to two per person. “Bring-your-own” is no longer a good idea under the circumstances.

So far, there are no directives concerning a resident who throws a party in the party room, allows guests to drink to excess, and a guest has an accident. The resident is liable if the Court reasons that the party room becomes an extension of a resident’s home. But is the condo corporation liable? This is something to think about.

Examples of Cost-Free Activities

The following is a list of activities garnered from various dedicated managers.

  • One manager who has many older residents, some of whom live alone, holds a weekly take-out lunch. Residents happily pay their share and there is no cost to the condo.
  • Another manager has activities for children. (Click here for Noise from Children Playing and Running)
  • A manager has transformed the corner of a large interior pool deck for the use of a professional masseuse. This masseuse comes twice weekly and pays a small rent to the condo. (A by-law has been passed to this effect.)
  • Another manager organizes monthly bingos in the party room. A small entry fee is required and residents buy cards once inside. There is no cost to the condo.
  • In another building, tennis tournaments are organized at a nearby court.
  • In a townhouse development attached to a high-rise, mothers with infants have a weekly “mothers and tots” hour in the party room. They socialize while sharing a potluck lunch.
  • In a condo high rise where many seniors with walking difficulties reside, a director opens the long party room each afternoon so that they can take safe walks in each other’s company. This is particularly helpful during winter time.
  • Yoga, meditation, and pilates classes are offered in some buildings but there is often a problem of declining attendance as the weeks go by.